In Conversation with Trinity’s Foremost Climate Activists

By Faye Murphy

Wildfires, heatwaves and extreme weather events; every summer is becoming increasingly dangerous. It can be extremely daunting to see the effects of climate change get worse in real time. In order to remain positive yet motivated to reduce emissions, lobbying governments and creating change is essential. Evergreen talked to some of Trinity’s foremost climate activists to discuss how they have been affected by the climate crisis and how to remain motivated. 

TCDSU’s Environmental Officer, Erin O’Dowd, believes that the recent heatwaves and wildfires simply have “illuminated the damage that climate change is doing to the world”. Aoife Kiernan, this year’s Environmental Society chair, adds that “it is frustrating when media reporting fails to acknowledge climate change as the driving force behind this extreme weather.” O’Dowd also mentions how a “few days of hot weather is enjoyable in Ireland” but “we have got to remember the more sinister reasons for those days becoming weeks.” Becca Payling, a previous Environmental Society chair, continues “the heatwave has been a wakeup call” that climate change “will not just affect people in the Global South”. 

“it is frustrating when media reporting fails to acknowledge climate change as the driving force behind this extreme weather.”

When discussing the Irish government’s debates around agricultural emissions, Kiernan described the talks as “disheartening” due to the government’s “unwillingness to place relative cuts to the emissions of the sector”. On the UK side of things, Payling discussed how the election of Liz Truss – whom she described as “a woman who dabbles with climate sceptics” – worries her as it may be a sign “that leaders cannot take this crisis seriously despite increasing evidence.”

Although COVID-19 stole the headlines in 2020 and 2021, the climate crisis is slowly creeping its way back into the media. When asked about the increasing number of outspoken climate activists across campus, O’Dowd states “conversations around climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental awareness are crucial in making a change for the better.”

She also believes that “groups like Extinction Rebellion, or our Green Campus Committee in Trinity, and societies like EnviroSoc” are “a step in the right direction” due to their ability to “encourage people on the ground to get involved and get angry about how people in power are treating our planet”. To this, Kiernan adds that “an increase in visibility [of climate change] has extended our ability as a society to do more varied collaborations.”

“conversations around climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental awareness are crucial in making a change for the better.”

With increasing media coverage comes increasing backlash. Payling believes that it is possible “people are either fed up, are overwhelmed, or have shifted priorities since covid.” Regardless of the evergrowing visibility of climate deniers, O’Dowd states that “the progress being made” should not be “tainted by the opinions of the ignorant”. Maintaining that “the work being done to combat climate change will go on without them or not.”

Despite the overwhelming and unsettling nature of climate change, O’Dowd reminds us that “you are one human, and you can only do so much.” She urges students to “join environmental groups like EnviroSoc or the Green Campus Committee and get involved in organising local protests, beach clean-ups or sustainable meals.” Kiernan agrees and continues, “it’s really important to find a community with similar beliefs and values to you”.

Payling shared that “it helps to find out more about your passions from a green perspective”, as “staying informed can be overwhelming” but supposes that “if it’s attuned to your interests, then at worst it’s a fun fact to take home.” O’Dowd adds to this idea as she believes it’s important to “make a difference while having fun.”

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